England vs USA Preview

England vs USA Preview: Lionesses To Halt Lightning American Start?

The evidence of England’s incremental growth under Phil Neville was on full display during their win against Norway in the quarterfinal. The attack shone, producing a display of clinical finishing, while the defence remained solid, and the Lionesses showed maturity and played with freedom and elegance. It was a statement; for the first time this summer, they truly lived up to their billing of title contenders.

For the second World Cup in a row, England will face the defending champions in the semifinal. By virtue of being the current holders, the USA would be considered favourites for this tie. They have not lost a match at the World Cup since 2011, and they rarely looked like losing in Paris.

Scoring an early goal always has a significant impact. Jill Scott’s strike against Norway set the tone for England’s performance, which was arguably their best one at this tournament so far. The Lionesses will undoubtedly want to get the first goal again on Tuesday, while preventing the USA from doing the same.

The only problem is that their semifinal opponents have mastered this art: not only have the USA scored first in all their games so far, they have also scored them quickly. The opening strikes have come in the 12th, 11th, third, seventh and fifth minutes. Read More

Netherlands vs Japan

Netherlands vs Japan Preview: A Clear Case Of Past Against Present

At this exact stage of the 2015 World Cup, Japan beat the Netherlands 2-1 and went on to reach their second consecutive final. Asako Takakura’s side are under no pressure to repeat the feats of their predecessors; after all, the two teams have followed vastly divergent trajectories since then.

The Dutch had qualified for that knockout round as one of the four best third-placed teams; they set up this 2019 re-match – a clear case of past vs present in the sport – by topping their group through an emphatic win. The former world champions are building a team for the future, while the reigning European champions are looking to graduate from their status as dark horses at the biggest stage, hoping to transition from pretenders to the throne to genuine contenders.

Knocking out Japan this early would be considered quite an accomplishment, considering the fact that the Netherlands are yet to prove themselves at this level at the World Cup. It should be kept in mind that this is only their second appearance at the finals, but expectations and aspirations have changed considerably since their debut four years ago. It does help that they have useful experience in a knockout environment: they won every knockout fixture by multiple goals at the 2017 European Championship on the way to lifting the trophy. Read More

Japan vs England

Japan vs England Preview: A World Top 10 Clash With History Too

When England faced Japan four years ago in their World Cup semifinal in Canada, the Lionesses lost the tie, heartbreakingly, through an own goal in the 92nd minute. The stakes aren’t quite as high this time around – it is ‘only’ the group stage, and both teams have already progressed into the next round – but it is not a complete dead rubber.

Victory against Japan in the SheBelieves Cup in March, despite it being a friendly tournament, and the manner in which they secured it will no doubt have given Phil Neville’s side confidence ahead of their meeting in Nice. Now, after narrowly defeating Scotland and overcoming Argentina’s attempts to frustrate them, England should be well-prepared for their final test after these two difficult fixtures.

Neville pointed out that “Japan struggled to create chances against Argentina but we didn’t”. The South Americans held the former world champions to a goalless draw, in which Asako Takakura’s side looked every inch the team in transition they were thought to be. A much more composed performance against Scotland served as a timely reminder of their class, encapsulated by Mana Iwabuchi’s fine finish, although they could do with some ruthlessness to match the levels of dominance. Read More

Netherlands vs Cameroon

Netherlands vs Cameroon Preview: The Battle of the Lionesses

Following their unexpected victory at the 2017 European Championship on home soil, the Netherlands have often been regarded as favourites against any opposition. That didn’t change in the build-up to their Group E opener against New Zealand. And although it was billed as a heavyweight mismatch, what followed was anything but.

A defensive masterclass from the Football Ferns stifled the famously deadly Dutch attack, who struggled to pose any real danger and were unable to break down a stubborn backline – until the dramatic dying moments, when substitute Jill Roord finished from close range. The relief was evident, but Sarina Wiegman and her Orange Lionesses will not want to leave it so late against Cameroon.

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Argentina vs Japan Preview

Argentina vs Japan Preview: Lack of experience to cost La Albiceleste

To say Argentina’s road to the World Cup was rocky would be an understatement. They were already treading on dangerously uneven territory when the long-winded route started to present obstacles at every turn, each of them incremental in the level of fatality and casting a semi-permanent shadow over their hopes of navigating it successfully.

Even before a third-placed finish in the 2018 Copa América hindered their chances of direct qualification, there was a bigger battle taking place outside the confines of a football stadium. Following long-standing issues with the federation regarding their (lack of) support, the players went on strike, seeking better pay and working conditions.

Argentina were so underfunded that they did not play a single international match nor had any staff after the 2015 Pan American Games through to the end of 2017. That was when they regrouped, and through the Copa América they overcame Panama in a rugged Concacaf-Conmebol play-off which finished 5-1 on aggregate. And so, after a 12-year absence, Argentina have returned to the world’s biggest stage. Read More